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Curling Minnesota: Bemidji

Curling Minnesota: Bemidji


Lakeland PBS presents ‘Curling
Minnesota Bemidji’ made possible
by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund
with money by the vote of the
people November 4th 2008. Additional funding
provided by George W. Nielson
Foundation helping the Bemidji area help itself. Jaime: I just enjoy it all
together. I enjoy the gameplay,
I enjoy the patience it takes in the game. I just enjoy the
game in general. Liz: It’s like
a chess game you know things happen a rock goes here a
rocks go there. Then you have to
think ahead well if they do this if they do that
then what are we gonna do or
what are we gonna try to do and I like that
strategy. Jamie: Everyone has
their part in making a good shot the sweeping the shot
making and the skipping and
everyone’s yelling to sweep or not sweep and
everyone’s all connected and
when you work as a team and you make a successful shot
one after each other and then
you win the game that’s the best feeling for me,
the best thing about curling.
Bob: It’s just being around other people. You feel
like you’re all one family when
you play against somebody from Hibbing or St. Paul or
wherever they’re from you just
accept them as part of the family. Jaime: A lot of
people just look at it you know crazy people throwing a rock
down the ice and they don’t
understand the finesse it takes to throw that
same repetitive rock over and
over and over again. And it’s a gigantic team
sport and it makes it a lot of
fun. Donna: I’m Donna Mae Naylor and I was expected to
curl when I married into the
Naylor clan. My husband was overseas at the time during
World War 2 and I came up to
meet his family in May of 43′ and the first
thing that dad Naylor, my
father-in-law, said to me young lady when you join the
Naylor clan you’re expected to
golf and to curl. And I did both. Back
in 1935 a group of fellows came from Hibbing with curling rocks
and everything on a trailer in
there right down in front of where Paul and
Babe are on the ice they formed
a sheet of ice and demonstrated the curling and
from then on it took off. So our
club observe 35′ was their first year. And
then the next winter I think it
was made of slab wood. That was built on
what Cenex parking lot is now and it was built with
slab wood from Krebs Lumberyard.
And of course there was no heating or anything
but that was really rustic
because you could see through it. Ruth: I’m Ruth
Howe. I was hired at Bemidji
State for team sports in 1957 and I was introduced to
curling that year and wrote my
dissertation on the growth of curling in the
United States and the
development of it. And from that I did a lot of
teaching about curling and
enjoyed playing. I asked what you do you do up here for fun?
And the gal who was working out
in the office her name was Shirley [inaudible] said,
well some of us curl. And I knew
how to bowl but I didn’t know how to curl. So I said,
well show me how to do this. So
she took me down to the curling club and she
introduced me to Harry Hunt. And
Harry Hunt taught me how to sweep and he really knew
how to sweep. And a little bit
on how to throw the rock and so on. And that’s
how I got introduced to it. And
it was at the second curling club there were
four sheets of ice and it was
just a fun place to be because everybody
knew everybody else and they
brought in food and they danced and they had
parties there and it was natural
ice not artificial ice that came in
later. Because I remember trying
to throw a rock down the ice through water
and it didn’t work too well.
Donna Mae: On the ice it was very cold and the warming room
wasn’t much warmer because they
just had a ordinary heater in the warming
room area and it sat near the
door going out to the curling club. But we
dressed for it we didn’t have
special curling shoes and curling clothes like
they have nowadays but we wore
heavy wool sweaters and stuff. And then back in the
60s’ they built that edition on
the southeast corner of the curling club it
was for the entertainment. And
that was where we gathered for our weekly
gatherings you know they’d have
bonspiels and stuff just within the club. It
was cheap entertainment and of course in those days most
of the fellows had been in the
service and so there wasn’t a lot of money
floating around. And we had
young families but we had more fun I think than most
people realized. The women had a
struggle to get permission from the fellows.
There were quite a few of the
younger curlers that didn’t want women curling. They
wanted to keep it exclusively
for the men. But we had one president, Floyd Hurt,
who was a trucker by trade that
encouraged us and he really promoted us, that was
back in 51′. And so we formed
our first club in 51-52′ and we’ve been curling
ever since. Ruth: I think it was
wonderful because it’s one way to get to know people
and we had a lot of working
women plus those who were staying home of course. But
you got to know people within
the community and it was just a fun thing. And I
think that the women have played
a very important role in the curling club as it
is now. When we moved to the new
club back in 67′ 68 we furnished carpeting, we
furnished furniture and somebody
located a bar in Marble, Minnesota a cherry wood
bar that we refurnished. The
women did all the work on that. Well in 67′ the
club was notified by the federal government that they
were taking over that property
and that they were going to build the Northland
apartments. And so it was a
scurry scurry job to find a location but at that time
the skaters also had to find a
new place. So they got together and built the
building that were in now. But
the skating site has nothing to do with the
curling site and we have nothing
to do with the skating side. But it just grew
and it was a struggle because it
was opened for the 67-68′ season. We had one
general manager. He had been
mayor at one time of Bemidji,
too Jim Hensel and he assumed the
responsibility of overseeing the construction of it. A lot of
volunteer hours by the curlers
themselves and we had a fellow that worked at Land
O’Lakes Creamery at that time
and he ran the equipment and kept it in
running order. But the ladies
used to run bake sales and we used to have
rummage sale to earn money to
invest in the new club. It was a good move and we’ve
had a very successful curling club, just about everybody
pitches in to help. Jan: Well I’m Jan Fenson and
I’ve been part of the Bemidji
Curling Club since 1971. Bob: I’m Bob Fenson and
I’ve been a member since 1960.
Well I got introduced by my father. I curled and I
started curling with him and I
had an aunt , aunt Norma asked me to curl
competitive. Jan: And I got
introduced to curling through my husband. Bob: In 62′ we went
through the state high school we
did two more years and we won the state high school. Came
back I really liked it and we
got it into men’s curling and went from there.
Jan: The Bemidji Curling Club it
was like a big family. Very supportive of each other on
the ice and off the ice. We have
a lot of people that are willing to do things
for the club on committees and
just doing things around the club that
need to be done. Well I think that the family
unit has been a big part of
curling. Our two sons and our daughters in law
and our four grandchildren have
all curled. And Bob and I curled together in mixed
events and we’ve curled with our
kids and carry it on from generation
to generation. Pete: My name is Pete Fenson. I
think I’m a third generation
member of the Bemidji Curling Club. And I was lucky
enough to be introduced to the
game when I was very young. My parents, Bob and
Jan, would come up to play
league night games and sometimes didn’t have a sitter
and would bring my brother and I
along so we had a chance to see the game at a very
young age and experience the
club and the atmosphere that was here. I
remember giving it a try
instructed by my mom and dad. Then when I was probably 13
there was a Sunday night Junior
League that we started to take part in and kind
of started to learn how to curl.
There due to our interest my parents
played a lot and my dad was a
competitive player so he became our coach naturally
starting to teach us how to play
the game. Bob: We didn’t ask our kids to play they
just wanted to play and they we
played they played and that’s how they all
got started. Jan: They saw our
passion for the sport and they tried it and
liked it and they eventually
both gave up hockey because they could see more
future in curling and enjoyed it
a little more. And it proved to be successful for
both of them and now it’s
carried on to their kids. Jamie: Hi my name is Jamie
Haskell and I’m a member of the
Bemidji Curling Club. Liz: My
name is Liz Johnson and I’m a member
of the Bemidji Curling Club. I
met my husband and we started curling in the
leagues Monday night and then I
decided to try doing the ladies league that
same year. That was back in the
1970s. Jamie: I think I started curling in the late 80s’ and
probably around when I was like
7 years old and both my parents curled, my
grandpa and my great-grandpa.
And they got me into curling and both my sister and I
started just throwing rocks and
we’ve been falling in love with it ever
since it’s been over 30 years
now and all thanks to my parents. So, it was kind of a
fun atmosphere for both my
sister and I spending time at the curling
club and we would just run
around with other junior curlers and have fun and then
eventually we got to throw rocks
on the ice and we just enjoyed doing that. And
then eventually learning more
about the sport, strategy, etcetera and we just
got hooked. And very inviting
because everyone is welcoming and friendly and it’s
like a second home to us in a
way cause you have a connection with other people
there and another family in a
way. Pete: The family connection to the sport of
curling is one of the things
that we love about it so much. A lot of times it goes
back generations and we actually
learn to be friends with the families that
our parents were and our
grandparents were as well. And we get to form
quite a tight bond with lots of
them. Liz: You play against relatives you play with them and
it’s the same with other
families too and you know, they do the same. It’s
been really enjoyable. Jamie: It
makes it special you know curling with family
members and now I still like I’m
curling with my dad still in league once a week and
that he enjoys it, I enjoy it,
and its just makes it more meaningful when it’s
your family and it’s someone
that taught you how to curl and now you’re curling with them at
the same level. When we won the
Olympic trials, it’s a little surreal at
first. We toured a year after we
won the Olympic trials and I think it sunk in
maybe in the middle of the tour
that we were going to represent the U.S. at
the Olympics in Torino, Italy.
And it just meant a lot to get to that level
because we worked so hard
practicing and we just loved the sport and to get to
that level it was kind of a
dream of ours. And to be there it was amazing and we’ll
always remember that experience
and I think we’re good representatives for
Bemidji and put Bemidji on the
map too, so. Ruth: But they really impacted the sport
I’ll tell you. The girls did. I
heard so many comments from people that really
were interested in the game
because of the way the women approached it.
They’re making shots and still
being able to be friendly about I think just they
were really amazed at that.
Pete: The list of places that I’ve been lucky enough to
travel to to curl is long list
throughout the world both the United States,
Canada, Europe as of the last
five or six years Asia, Russia. Also the game is
expanding within our country
because of the exposure that the game gets on
TV now with the Olympics and the
Curling net in America and the Olympic channel
there’s more places that are
starting to host large events that back when I
was a little bit younger
wouldn’t have had a curling event. You know
typically we played in
Switzerland if we left the country or if we left the
continent we played in Germany
or played in Scotland. Now it could be anywhere. Bob:
Yeah it’s really exciting to see
him and watch them because they’re going
the same places we went to it’ll never be anything
different I guess it’s really
exciting. Liz: It was awesome to watch
that our both our daughters can
do that. It was… really awesome. You’re gonna
make me cry. But no it was
really awesome to watch them
play and the whole experience I
mean everybody cheered for their teams but you know
you cheered for good shots that’s the curling way it is.
That you know you compliment
people on good shots and so the atmosphere was just
wonderful it was really nice.
Jan: I remember the first time that he won a national
championship there was a big
celebration and a big dinner to raise money for their
team. And that’s happened with
other teams as well. You know junior teams, men’s
teams, women’s teams that have
gone on to compete at a higher level. But
it’s always an honor to
represent our club and our state, our town in anything
but we’ve really enjoyed it
through curling. Pete: Being able to play the game on a
national and international level
and represent our community and our club has
always been an honor and
privilege. You know when we started when we were young we
always had a patch or we would
have the logo of our Curling Club embroidered on our
uniforms so it’s always been a
great thing to be able to do. And then
something else made me very
proud is when we would have championships or
tournaments here and people
would come from out of town that we played you
know on the tour maybe, they get
to see, they get to play us in our own home club. Jaime: My name is Jaime Quello.
I started curling about 2002,
brought my daughter to curl in youth curling and
with that coming into youth
curling I got involved with the Junior Curling Program
and I’ve been doing that for
about 17 years. I moved to town in about 2001. My
father-in-law curled on a league
and I had no concept of curling so
took a community ed course, I
learned how to curl, got on a team and then just
started curling from there and
now I curl three times a week and help with
Juniors a couple. My daughter
was 5 years old, 6 years old so I signed her up
in Junior curling, helped coach.
And from there just kind of went on. And
now my daughter is 22 years old
and I have a 18 year old son that curls and I
have a 13 year old daughter that
curls so it’s kind of a family event for us.
Youth curling or just youth
sports in general just by being a warm body and
just by showing up and just by
having the kids most times you’re expected to
coach. I came out there and I
coached with all the other coaches and I learned
how to coach the kids how to do
the sport and just kept learning as I go. So
to get up here to be a part of
the curling club and it was flourishing and just
people and the experiences and
learning so many people it’s so fun with the
amount of people you get to meet
at this club. Liz: Then about 1985 we purchased junior
rocks, smaller rocks, for the
kids to throw at a younger age. Because usually
about 10 or so they can throw
rocks but we had kids, Jamie and Cassie’s age,
about 6, 5, 6 or 7 that could
actually try the smaller rocks. And then a couple years
later they started a Sunday
night program and we had a ton of kids that first
night that we started that.
There were so many families that wanted their
little kids to try that. And
then a couple years later we started the middle
school, high school program
which was after school on Mondays just so that
those kids could have a time
where they could play. It was fun to see these
kids and I did that for about 10
years and I passed it on and it is still going on.
Jaime: We started out in juniors
and first-grade anyone can sign up
and so we usually have first
through fifth grade in our junior leagues. And we’ll
typically have about 70 kids on
6 sheets and that caps us out right there.
And that’s just total mayhem
with lots of little kids and it’s repetitive
repetitive repetitive till we
can get them up to that next level. And then we
have sixth grade to high school
kind of get together, we get about 45-50
kids that come out for that and
we can spend a little more time getting
them better techniques. Bemidji’s unique that we also
have high school classes. So we
have two classes of 48 kids during the day and then
we swap them over twice a year
so we have a 180- 190 kids through the high
school that get to experience curling also. And then also the
college has curling classes here
so. Ruth: I introduced curling to BSU. I approached
them because we could rent the club for almost nothing and
a lot of times we were always
looking for members and they did classes for little
kids on Sunday nights so why not
provide students with it? A lot who
wanted just to learn about this
stupid sport and that’s how we got them. And then
once they were introduced to the
stupid sport, they loved it. So that’s
what happens. Then had a lot of
curlers who were really good curlers take
the class. Scotty Baird and all
of the Fenson’s, they were national curlers. And
Johnson was too. I didn’t have
the Johnson girls but I had the Liapis when they were
there, the girls. Jamie: We
realized we could potentially be in the Olympics
when we saw Stacey and Kari
Liapis at the time they went to the Olympics
in 2002. And we’re like, woah
there’s two sisters they went to the Olympics. We’re
two sisters, we could go to the
Olympics! And just to have that connection you
know they’re from Bemidji and to
see that and you know they came from the same
place Bemidji Curling Club, we
could do that too. And it just
motivated us seeing your fellow curling members from
Bemidji Curling Club do this and
it pushed us to practice and you know get to
certain levels. Liz: They start in the junior program like
a lot of the kids and then some
of the kids they’d play bonspiels and played
with their parents. And then the
next step that really I think helped them
was when Stacey had one year
left that she was eligible to play Juniors and
asked the two of them to play
with a friend at Junior state and they won the
Junior state and then they went
to Nationals. And they did really well. Jamie:
We went to the semifinals our
first….. Liz: First year they ever played, yeah. And that kind
of started it. Jaime: Seventh,
eighth, ninth graders they’ll come play in leagues.
And they’re playing with adults.
Well these kids first start out and they’re
having difficulty so the adults
in the leagues are also teaching these youths
how to get to be better players.
So it’s kind of a responsibility to bring the
sport up through the youth. Liz:
And I think the atmosphere in Bemidji is that we
have a lot of good curlers to
play against and learn with. And I’m talking
about the guys and the women and
the other Juniors they’re all such good curlers
that they feed off each other
and learn so much from each other, willing to
teach and share. Pete: Yeah
that’s a question that’s been asked many times how come we’ve
had so much success at a high
level? And it’s tough question to answer I mean
I kind of blame the people that
taught me how to play. I mean they taught us
how to play the game to us how
to play at a high level they taught us how to
respect the game and the people
that we play and they taught us how to work hard.
And it’s something that I think
has just it’s just been passed down. Jaime:
It’s quite the cool environment
to walk into the club and see the amount of banners we
have. And I’ve got to travel to
a lot of clubs in Minnesota. Other clubs try to
do the same thing and they don’t
have a fraction of what we have as a
club. So you know it is
definitely a commitment for us as a club and with our
youth – how do we keep filling
banners? How do we keep making this club as great
as it is? Because we do have
such a rich tradition of great curlers. Liz: I know
that gal at the chamber once
said that Bemidji could never pay for all the
advertising and marketing that
happened because of the kids and Fenson’s going to
the Olympics that drew so many
people to see what Bemidji is, what the club
is like, and where these kids
came from. Jamie: I know a lot of people they think of
Bemidji and they think about
curling and they know that it’s the curling capital of
the U.S. and so a lot of times
they’ll wanna come and curl or try to curl or try
to get some ice time or want to
see curling and I think it does help the economy
too because people will want to
come and watch and then spend money in
town too. Jan: Hotels, food, any
recreational activities that they might partake in
besides the curling and it’s
economically good for our club. We serve food here and
sell souvenirs and so on and so
it’s a boost it’s an economical boost.
Jaime: Bemidji is known for
curling. You know, you go out of town you go somewhere and you
curl people say, oof they’re
from Bemidji. That’s the first thing they say,
they’re from Bemidji, they know
how to curl. Yeah, some do some don’t. But it’s
because the good ones have made
it you know known out there that hey, they know
how to curl in Bemidji. It
brings people into the community it’s something to
do in the community. At least
for our family winters go by extremely fast
because we’re constantly at the
curling club or we’re traveling somewhere to
curl. It’s a social event like I
said, I’ve got to meet 200 plus people because of
curling. People I didn’t know
moved into a community didn’t know a lot of
people got to be in the curling
club now I know over half the town just because
of curling. Liz: But it’s neat I
look back at some of the pictures from those
years ago and you see all these
kids have grown up and now they’re curling
at the club. And it’s fun to see
that tradition going on and they’ve got kids
that want to try it and are
starting to curl now too so that’s great. Ruth: Well
I have to admit it’s a broom stacking and you know broom
stacking is after you curl a
game you go up and eat and have a drink and socialize.
And you know I can go to any
event now where there’s a curler and you still
have that commonality of friendship and happy to see each
other and just there’s something
about it, yeah. Jan: Well I guess I would
really invite people to come out
here and learn what curling’s about. I think a lot
of people have misconceptions or
don’t understand what it takes to be a curler.
Don’t understand maybe the
closeness of the curlers, don’t understand what
the games about and I think if
they would try it they could find out that it’s
very enjoyable and get hooked!
Bob: I agree. Jamie: Another thing I enjoy about curling that
other people would enjoy too is
just the connection with Bemidji Curling
Club, connecting with members
and friends and you know throwing rocks and
sweeping and then socializing
afterwards. And it’s just a lot of fun. Donna Mae: I
was always so enthusiastic about
that curling club I fell in love with the game right
away. At first I looked at it
and I thought it’s kind of a stupid thing out there
sweeping that rock and of course
the older fellows couldn’t sweep like the
young ones do you know. But we
had a good time. Jaime: We have such a great club
and I’ll brag about our club all
day long. We have a great two level tier seating I
mean as you’re looking past me
it’s it’s great viewing it’s some of the best
viewing that I’ve been to in a
club. You got a bar atmosphere upstairs. You
got a competitive everybody’s downstairs coaching aspect and
then you’re watching great
curling on the ice. Pete: Well what makes the
Bemidji Curling Club unique to
me is this is home, this is where I grew up, this is where
I learn how to play, I have lots of memories from the time I
was like I said preteen to
current-day. And the friends that I made when I
was young they’ve come and gone
my friends that are still here are definitely
what have and still do draw us
to the Bemidji Curling Club. Curling Minnesota Bemidji made
possible by the Minnesota Arts
and Cultural Heritage Fund with money by the vote of
the people November 4th 2008.
And additional funding by the George W. Nielsen
Foundation, helping the Bemidji
area help itself.

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